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Leinster Rugby vs Zebre
Guinness Pro12 Round 15
RDS Showground, Dublin
Friday, 20th February 2015, 19:35

Television: TG4

Last week, Leinster had a great chance to push themselves into third place in the table, especially after the Ospreys lost away to Edinburgh. Instead they lost to a Dragons team in Dublin for the first time ever. The Dragons had previously only beaten fellow bottom-four teams Cardiff, Treviso and Zebre this season in the league. There were the usual excuses from the Leinster management about the refereeing and the lack of a T.M.O. but if it had been televised, Leinster's only try would probably have been ruled out for a forward pass.

In short Leinster were awful. A team with eight full internationals started the game and they probably thought they were going to breeze home. But the Dragons showed more invention on the ball than Leinster did and they were full value for their win. Once again, Leinster's clueless gameplan of sending one-out runners up the middle drew snores from the crowd. The closer Leinster get to the try-line, the less likely they are to score and this is the biggest indictment of how Leinster are going about their business at the moment.

With tricky fixtures coming up in the next two weeks away to the Ospreys and the Scarlets, Leinster really need to get their act together or else they could find themselves well outside the top four when the internationals come back after the Six Nations. It's probably just as well that the team they're facing tomorrow is bottom team Zebre.

The Italians have returned to the foot of the table after doing okay earlier in the season and last week they were thumped at home to Glasgow. Mauro Bergamasco captains their team from the flank and his brother Mirco forms a decent centre partnership with Matteo Pratichetti. Luciano Orquera and Brendon Leonard are a good half-back pairing as well.

Leinster make seven changes from last week with several Ireland squad members coming into the squad. Zane Kirchner and Luke Fitzgerald come into the back three alongside Fergus McFadden. Gordon D'Arcy is fit again and he will be glad to get a game in a season where he's become something of a forgotten man. Ben Te'o had a mixed game last week but he showed his ability to make a break and he's potentially a huge weapon if he can hang onto the ball. Eoin Reddan is fit again and he'll be looking to prove his fitness to Ireland coach Joe Schmidt as he takes his place alongside Jimmy Gopperth who makes his 50th Leinster appearance.

Michael Bent stays at loosehead but Aaron Dundon and Marty Moore come in to start alongside him in the front row. Mike McCarthy comes into the second row in place of Tom Denton in the final change to the pack. The backrow of Dominic Ryan, Shane Jennings and Jack Conan is unchanged and it's fitting that Jennings is skipper as he announced his retirement today. Jennings has been a massively influential player for Leinster and a full tribute will be made when he makes his final appearance.

Sean Cronin and Cian Healy are both named on the bench and Leinster should have more than enough to win this game with something to spare.

Then again, we thought that last week!

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby
Teams Zane Kirchner 15 Hendrik Daniller
Fergus McFadden 14 Dion Berryman
Ben Te'o 13 Mirco Bergamasco
Gordon D'Arcy 12 Matteo Pratichetti
Luke Fitzgerald 11 Michele Visentin
Jimmy Gopperth 10 Luciano Orquera
Eoin Reddan 9 Brendon Leonard

Michael Bent 1 Andrea De Marchi
Aaron Dundon 2 Oliviero Fabiani
Marty Moore 3 Luciano Leibson
Mike McCarthy 4 Valerio Bernabo
Kane Douglas 5 Michele Sutto
Dominic Ryan6 Jacopo Sarto
Shane Jennings (C)
7 Mauro Bergamasco (C)
Jack Conan 8 Samuela Vunisa

Replacements Sean Cronin 16 Lorenzo Giovanchelli
Cian Healy 17 Laert Naka
Tadhg Furlong 18 Luca Redolfini
Ben Marshall 19 Giacomo Bernini
Dan Leavy 20
Ruben Riccioli
Isaac Boss21 Alberto Chillon
Cathal Marsh 22 Edoardo Padovani
Dave Kearney 23 David Odiete

Not Considered
due to Injury
Edward Byrne,
Rhys Ruddock,
Kevin McLaughlin,
Tom Denton,
Noel Reid,
Richardt Strauss,
Jamie Heaslip

Filippo Cristiano,
Tommaso D'Apice,
Filippo Ferrarini,
Gonzalo Garcia,
Quintin Geldenhuys,
Andrea Lovotti,
Giulio Toniolatti,
Andries Van Schalkwyk
Officials Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU, 118th competition game),
Assistant Referees: Kieran Barry, Stuart Douglas (both IRFU),
Citing Commissioner: Denis Templeton (IRFU),
TMO: Dermot Moloney (IRFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2015-02-19